Mrs. or Ms. What do we call the widow?

Well, this can certainly be a touchy subject.  Like most everything after the loss of a spouse, the decision on which name you would like to be referred to is an important choice for each woman.

Personally, I had been married for 26 years when Mike died.  I chose to change my name.  My maiden name became my middle name, and I took his last name.  That was the summer before I started teaching.  As a student teacher in college I had gone by the name of Miss Sanders.  My parents, and even a grandmother, was a teacher so hearing adults called by Mrs. —– or Mr. ___ was completely normal for me.

Once I started teaching I was always Mrs. Divers.

In my generation, some women chose to keep their maiden names.  Some women decided to use the term Ms.

Some women get divorced.  They are not ready to change their names at the Social Security office, but they switch from Mrs. to Ms.  It gives them a sense of freedom from their husband and his name I imagine.

According to several websites I researched for this article, a widow is traditionally addressed as Mrs. John Jones. A divorced woman should be addressed as Ms. Jane Johnson on invitations.

A widow was and still is addressed with the same title as when she was married.

There is absolutely no reason, or convention, for the title of a widow to change from whatever title she used prewidowhood.  And there never was.

If she was Mrs. before, she is Mrs. now, unless she decides otherwise.

Whatever it is, if it is her choice, it is OK.

Traditionally, a widow retains her husband’s name until she remarries.

And then what… I wonder how many women change their names again?  I would feel bad changing my name again, but if you are marrying someone else, isn’t that the right thing to do?

Anyway, I bring this up because this issue blindsided me this school year.  For 29 years, I have worked in elementary schools and been referred to as Mrs. Divers.  It is sort of who I am.  I am a teacher.

When I sent home my welcome letter to the families in August, I told them about my kids and pets, my hobbies and some things to expect in Kindergarten.  I signed the letter Mrs. Divers.

A few days later when the children arrived I was thrilled.  They are so cute and excited and nervous.  We had fun getting to know each other and I planned lots of fun activities including name games.

what to call a widow. Ms. or Mrs.

The next day one child left behind the school issued name tag.

Wasn’t I surprised to read below this precious child’s name, the name Ms. Divers!

I wasn’t ready for this one.  I had never changed my name.  Why had it changed?

I asked for advice from my virtual friends on Facebook.  I have found comfort and friendship from other widows and widowers who have been down this path before me or that I can help along those first few years.  I asked if I should bring it up to someone or just let it go.

Well, just like the wearing a wedding ring or not, this issue got heated. Do Widows Wear Wedding Rings?

Some people thought I should just let it go.  I am no longer married and this is another way to help me move forward.  I don’t need to hang onto the title, and it will help understand that I am no longer going to ever be that same person anymore.

But more people thought, that if it bothered me, I should bring it up.  I didn’t have to be defensive or nasty about it, just express that I prefer to be called Mrs. since that is how I still refer to myself when I write correspondence with parents or anyone else.

I don’t like confrontation.   I really don’t.  I needed to do some of that since Mike died.  It was important, but I can not stay in that state of life indefinitely.

This wasn’t too bad.  I mentioned that I prefer to stay Mrs. and the people I told were super nice and understanding.  They thought I wanted the change because it made me sound younger.  Does it?  I thought that was what hair dye was for.

Anyway, crisis averted.  One thing this whole tragedy has taught me is that so many things are really not a big deal.  If something bothers you, find a way to fix it.  Nothing is as bad as finding out your husband is dead.

I never wanted to have to change my name and so I choose to keep it for now.

Have you changed your name?  Do you think you ever will?

Mrs. or Ms. what to we call the widow

 

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Comments

35 comments on “Mrs. or Ms. What do we call the widow?”
  1. cedar51 says:

    I changed my name in the early 1990s, not because I was in your circumstance, but because my marriage collapsed. His surname which I had used for near on 15 years, wasn’t a pleasant sounding name, so I changed it – I didn’t return to my maiden name instead for a surname I rejigged my original middle/second name and added some thing else…for vanity reasons more than anything else. Now this name certainly has people flummoxed because they believe I am foreign…and I’ve had many people when writing it on something like a “name badge” come up with some very interesting spellings…but it’s all okay me!

    1. runawaywidow says:

      That’s great. So creative to work with your name and add some flair. I’m glad it made you happy.

  2. This is such a thought provoking post! Something you never really consider unless you are in the situation. Definitely loved reading this!

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thanks

  3. Luci Cook says:

    I didn’t know there was a difference between Ms. and Mrs. I don’t if I would take my husbands name if I ever get married. A friend of mine got married and she still goes by her maiden name.

  4. KYLIE ABREU says:

    Wow this is something I had never really thought of before. For some reason I had thought they were scrapping Miss and just having the options as Ms or Mrs

  5. LA says:

    I didn’t change my name, but I’m almost never referred to as ms. Or Mrs. or whatever, so it doesn’t seems to matter. I never thought about it

  6. I found it interesting they changed it because they said it sounded younger? hmm. Good for you for staying above the fray.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      It was a bit weird but they meant well.

  7. Lynn Keller says:

    Thought provoking topic! I choose to assume that only good intentions are behind however someone addresses me. More important to me is that I wish young grocery clerks, etc. still called me “Miss” instead of the age-appropriate “Mam”! : )

    1. runawaywidow says:

      That is so true. Ma’am just sounds so old!

  8. Pauline Flanagan-Tully says:

    Can’t believe you just wrote this. The other night I was booking a flight and went back/forth Ms. or Mrs.
    Stayed with Mrs.
    Mrs. Divers you always hit it out of the ballpark😘

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thanks Pauline! Xo

  9. I guess I’ve never that about this before since I don’t really know if I’ll ever get married. However, I think that if I do get married, I’ll definitely change my last name to my husband’s.

    http://www.officiallychic.com

    1. runawaywidow says:

      I did – that’s cool!

  10. Britt says:

    I’m not married but if/when it happens I’d completely eliminate my maiden name and just be Mrs. – Heaven forbid my hypothetical husband passes away I would still remain Mrs., at least until I become ready to date or remarry. With that being said, I can’t put myself in your shoes and definitively say how I would happen someone calling me “Ms” if I still identified with “Mrs”. But I don’t think that this is something to be offended by, especially not by a child. Anyway good luck with everything!

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Absolutely – kids can call me anything, that’s not a concern ever. Unless…

  11. Patricia G. says:

    I am not a widow, nor have I ever been married, so my maiden name is still my name. However, I admire you for choosing to keep your late husband’s memory alive by keeping the Mrs, but I would respect you as well if you went to Ms. I think for a widow this is a personal decision that should both by respected by others and given much thought.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thank you – it is definitely up to each woman how she wants to be identified.

  12. This is such an interesting read! When I got married I changed my last name and although it was a long process I’m glad I did it!

    1. runawaywidow says:

      me too – thanks for reading

  13. Rebecca says:

    This is such a great article to show the importance to ask about even the “little” things. Others may consider it “little” but it is not. I have 2 friends recently widowed. The questions, the comments, the things to consider are so raw and so unexpected. Thank you for sharing! Ask don’t assume – its always a good life lesson.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thanks for reading

  14. I loved reading this post! I am married and I though I have taken up my husband’s last name and my maiden name became my middle name, I haven’t added Mrs. to my name because I think adding my husband’s last name should be proof enough of our marriage, LOL. It was also a of rebellion against the fact that as a woman, I am expected to change my name (which I did) and title but men don’t have to go through the pain of getting everything changed at the Social security office/passports/DL or bank accounts. I loved reading your perspective and realised that it really is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong way to go about it.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thanks for reading.

  15. Oh that’s an interesting perspective! I usually address all women as Ms. unless they have specifically introduced themselves as Mrs. (since so many of my friends didn’t change their names when getting married.)

  16. runawaywidow says:

    Totally understandable. I think Ms. is much more common that I realize.

  17. Jillian Bell says:

    Very Interesting and unique post. I respect your decision. I’ll also definitely change my last name to my husband’s.

  18. Jill says:

    Very Interesting and unique post. I respect your decision. I’ll also definitely change my last name to my husband’s.

  19. Indrani says:

    Something very hard to decide there. I think women should retain their maiden name first marriage or second marriage. To be known by father’s name is lot better than husband’s name.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Interesting

  20. This may sound a little strange but, when my husband was alive, I felt like ‘me’ – the real me. I took his name when we married and I can’t imagine ever changing it because I’d feel as though I was losing a part of myself. I’m not sure that makes sense but I can’t explain it any other way :O) xx

    1. runawaywidow says:

      That makes perfect sense to me. Your name is who you are. Thanks for sharing

    2. runawaywidow says:

      Not at all strange. Makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for reading.

      1. It’s nice to know someone understands 😊 xxx

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